Jeffery D. Allred, Deseret News
AUSTIN, Texas — BYU will be facing a Texas team that has undergone quite a few changes from a year ago. The Longhorns will be fielding a team that relies heavily on new players, a lot of them true freshmen, with a new offensive system.
Such wholesale changes aren’t typical for such a successful and long-tenured coach as Mack Brown. When your team goes an un-Texas-like 5-7 a year ago, however, you make those changes.
BYU, meanwhile, returns most of its team intact from a year ago and, like Texas, they have a new offensive coordinator. Some of the precepts with BYU’s offense remain although coach Brandon Doman has them trending toward a more pro-style system.
Despite all the new players seeing game time while coming off of a losing season, they’re still Texas, according to BYU players.
“You look at film, and they’re as fast and as athletic as any team I’ve seen,” observed quarterback Jake Heaps. “I mean, they’re Texas. They get great athletes there and this year is no different. They’ll be a huge test for us.”
So how does BYU compare with the Big12 powerhouse? Which matchups look to be favorable for the Cougars and which matchups look to serve them a bit of trouble?
BYU rushing attack vs. Texas
With sophomore running back Joshua Quezada ailing from a migraine, it was senior JJ Di Luigi taking charge with 56 yards rushing against Ole Miss. Overall, the Cougar ground game was average against the Rebel front, accounting for 105 total yards with a 4.2 per carry average from its running backs.
Texas allowed 127 yards on a 5.52 yard-per-carry average to the Rice running backs last week. They operate out of a 4-3 base defensive system which features a lot of speed and overall athleticism.
The defensive front will feature Kheeston Randall, 6-foot-5, 305-pound senior who is on both the Outland and Lombardi trophy watch lists. Randall is very experienced having played in 35 total games, including all 12 games a season ago where he tallied 39 tackles and 13 tackles-for-loss.
“They have a real powerful D-line,” said BYU running back Bryan Kariya. “I think they have five starters from a year ago with their front guys. It’s a little hard to tell exactly what they have from one game, and that’s sort of the challenge. I do know that they have a lot of experience and talent on the defensive line though.”
Randall will be joined by sophomore Calvin Howell, 6-foot-4, 290, who started his first game last week against Rice. On the ends, they’ll feature two players with starting experience from a year ago in junior Alex Okafor, 6-foot-4, 260, and sophomore Jackson Jeffcoat, 6-foot-5, 250.
At linebacker, the Longhorns have most of their returning experience with two seniors with a collective 41 games started. The group will be headed by Keenan Robinson, 6-foot-3, 240, who led the team in tackles from his middle linebacker spot with 130 last season.
Senior Emmanuel Acho, 6-foot-2, 245, was second in the team in tackles from a year ago, with 87 from his weak side linebacker spot. He’ll join with first-year starter Jordan Hicks, 6-foot-2, 235, who will start at strong side LB.
“They’ll be a challenge,” said Kariya. “They have a lot of experience at linebacker and they’re fast and athletic, just like the rest of their team.”
It was only one game, but Texas looked as if they could be had on the ground against Rice. With BYU’s experienced offensive front, they should be able to account for over 100 yards rushing and improve upon their 105 yards gained from a week ago.
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